Play group tar­gets post-na­tal de­pres­sion

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - Ni­cola Berkovic

WHEN An­drea Far­relly gave birth to her sec­ond child, Tom, in March last year, she was con­vinced she had turned into a witch mother’’. She found her­self lash­ing out at her tod­dler, Amy, and thought her fam­ily was bet­ter off with­out her.

It was only when Tom was six months old that her hus­band sug­gested she might have post-na­tal de­pres­sion.

Tom was born with a heart de­fect, which re­quired surgery. ‘‘ I think that trig­gered ev­ery­thing off,’’ says Far­relly, who asked that her and her fam­ily’s names be changed.

But she didn’t con­sider she might be suf­fer­ing from post-na­tal de­pres­sion, be­cause she wasn’t feel­ing ‘‘ de­pressed’’.

‘‘ I wasn’t cry­ing, I wasn’t mis­er­able — I was just re­ally, re­ally an­gry,’’ she re­calls.

Af­ter a visit to her GP, Far­relly started tak­ing anti-de­pres­sants and be­gan coun­selling, but she said the thing that helped her most was a sup­ported play group she at­tended with other PND suf­fer­ers.

‘‘ I went and saw that there were other peo­ple just like me,’’ she said. ‘‘ It made me think, ‘ I’m OK, I’m not the only per­son in the world who’s strug­gling with this’.’’

The group, Baby and Be­yond, was es­tab­lished by Syd­ney-based psy­chother­a­pist Melissa Hughes, who runs the group along with a male coun­sel­lor, Paul Grima, and a qual­i­fied child­care worker, Shan­non Bowyer, who or­gan­ises struc­tured play ac­tiv­i­ties for the chil­dren.

Hughes says she be­lieves there is a lack of on­go­ing sup­port ser­vices avail­able for PND suf­fer­ers, and more fund­ing is needed for ser­vices of this kind.

‘‘ What hap­pened is this big push — a lot of the money they talked about for post­na­tal de­pres­sion is ac­tu­ally go­ing into ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness, which is great, but there’s nowhere for th­ese women to go,’’ she said.

Post and An­te­na­tal De­pres­sion As­so­ci­a­tion CEO Belinda Hor­ton says spe­cialised ser­vices for PND suf­fer­ers are spo­radic — many have long wait­ing lists and there are gaps in cov­er­age in cer­tain ar­eas.

But she says that with the launch of the be­yond­blue na­tional ac­tion plan to tackle PND last year, there are moves afoot to im­prove those ser­vices. ‘‘ It would be great to see that ac­tu­ally hap­pen,’’ she said.

Be­yond­blue deputy CEO Ni­cole Highet says the na­tional ac­tion plan is fo­cused on pre­ven­tion, early in­ter­ven­tion and treat­ment — but not on sup­port groups.

Highet re­jects the idea that women

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